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Live Blog: It’s Day 2 at SEC Football Media Days

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HOOVER, Ala. – Today really pulls back the curtain on the SEC East. Coaches and athletes from Florida, Georgia and Vanderbilt will be at the SEC Media Days, along with Mississippi State out of the SEC West.

Florida, we suspect, will emerge as the SEC East favorite, as coach Jim McElwain has things going in the right direction. We’ll hear from him late this afternoon.

The Gators have nine offensive starters returning, but there are questions at quarterback – a line that could be applied to a lot of the SEC teams.

Georgia’s Kirby Smart, in his second year after going 8-5 last season, kicks things off today, followed by Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason and Dan Mullen from Mississippi State.

Vandy is intriguing. The Commodores have had more off-season problems than in recent years – sadly, is that the trade-off for recruiting better talent? – but there is some experience. The schedule is conducive to another bowl trip. The SEC East still isn’t as strong, and nonconference finds the Commodores playing Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky and Alabama A&M.

The morning’s “bonus speaker” was SEC coordinator of officials, Steve Shaw, who told us there are few significant rule changes for this season. However — and it’s odd to complain about this on a TV website — SEC games lasted an average of 3:26 in 2017, and some of that rests with game administration and the officials/TV relationship. There’s going to be a point of emphasis to speed things up by both parties.

Follow along all day on our live blog as all of us here at the SEC Media Days – Chase Horn, Taylor Tannebaum and Chris Davis – provide coverage.

Mark McCarter July 11, 20179:13 am

Georgia coach Kirby Smart says Nick Chubb is “a man of few words,” which he says made him an ideal guy to bring to SEC Media Days. Guess that means he won’t offer any inflammatory comments.

Chubb is the No. 2 all-time rusher at Georgia,with 3,424 yards. That’s second only to Herschel Walker, the best college football player I ever saw. 

Mark McCarter July 11, 20179:17 am

Congrats to Cole Cubelic, the former Auburn lineman and radio host at Huntsville’s WUMP. He’s been named to the broadcast crew for SEC Saturday Night, working as a field-level analyst for the SEC Network’s weekly marquee game. He joins a team that includes play-by-play man Tom Hart and booth analyst Jordan Rodgers.

Mark McCarter July 11, 20179:25 am

Kirby Smart is a former Alabama assistant. Here’s what he says about Alabama:

“The biggest thing is recruiting and development. A lot say it’s one or the other. When you do both you’ve got something special. Every team
in the league is trying to play catch-up when it comes to that. You can only do that
through hard work and grinding.”

Mark McCarter July 11, 20179:31 am

Kirby Smart has a boatload of returning starters — but he doesn’t buy into the number 21 that some report. “We lost three offensive lineman, so that math doesn’t work.”

He threw a dig at Tennessee’s Butch Jones, who last year proclaimed Georgia had the most talent “and (Jones) had six players drafted in the first four rounds and we had one.”

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Mark McCarter July 11, 201710:09 am

The reason Kirby Smart is preaching the “don’t look past Appy State” mantra, as referred to a few posts away by @ChaseHorn, is two-fold: First, Georgia plays at Notre Dame the second week. Second, Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32 on Sept. 1, 2007.

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Mark McCarter July 11, 201710:43 am

“Bigger and stronger” and “good chemistry” defines Vanderbilt’s team for 2017 says coach Derek Mason.

Mark McCarter July 11, 201710:46 am

🏈 Vandy’s Ralph Webb is “probably the most underrated back in the conference … all he does is perform,” says Derek Mason. He’s a “three-dimensional back.”

Webb could be “chasing SEC history” by his decision to return for senior year.

Mark McCarter July 11, 201711:03 am

🏈 Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason gave an update on two players, Tae Daley and Frank Coppet, who were recently shot.
They are “healing well … I’m just glad they’re safe,” Mason said.

Daley and Coppet were trying to help a teammate retrieve a cell phone that had been stolen and arrived on the scene with a pellet gun. Somebody on the other side had a real gun, and fired at the two.

“I don’t agree with the decision-making process of the young men,” Mason said, noting that both are suspended indefinitely. 

Mark McCarter July 11, 201711:10 am

🏈 Vanderbilt opens SEC play against Alabama. 

“There’s nobody right now doing better, when you look at the longevity of the program, how (Nick Saban) has built it, built it around who he is and how he sees football.
He is who is is all the time. I like his demeanor and how he handles himself.”

Mason was quick to add, though, “I don’t fear anybody.”
Maxie Gardner July 11, 201711:17 am

Mark McCarter July 11, 201711:42 am

OK, it’s five coaches down, nine to go from the main interview room, though Chase, Taylor and Chris are still taping away now with Derek Mason. It’s also lunch hour. We’ll check in again when Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen arrives at 1 p.m.

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Mark McCarter July 11, 201712:24 pm

Belk’s is a Media Days sponsor, as well as a bowl sponsor, and it was the host for the lunch today. But not so sure how many folks in this building will be applying this as our “Game Day look.”

Mark McCarter July 11, 201712:28 pm

Just thinking out loud about that picture on the post below: Those rolled-up cuffs on the jeans could be convenient for stepping through some coaches’ press conferences….

Maxie Gardner July 11, 201712:42 pm

Mark McCarter July 11, 20171:04 pm

Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen has begun. He has a suggestion: Because the room is so quiet when coaches arrive, each should choose “walk-up music” like baseball players coming to home plate.

Mullen and SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, on the subject, had been talking about music and comparing their experiences at U2 concerts. 

Think Commissioner Tonto Coleman and Bear Bryant talked about The Rolling Stones in 1966?

Mark McCarter July 11, 20171:09 pm

Dan Mullen notes one key addition at Mississippi State. Todd Grantham is the Bulldogs’ new defensive coordinator. He was at Louisville last year.

Mullen said he’s “excited about year number nine and finding a way to still be here.”

Mark McCarter July 11, 20171:18 pm

Fact is, Mississippi State isn’t the easiest place to lure recruits. It’s impressive that Dan Mullen has amassed 61 wins (against 42 losses) in his eight years there and had only two losing seasons (including 6-7 last season).

“We’re always striving to get better,” he said. “We have not won the (SEC) West yet. We haven’t won an SEC championship, not won a national championship yet. There’s a lot on the table with goals we want to achieve.

“The expectations around the program have certainly changed. Not just from a fan base and the media, but really the expectations from the players, the players in the program and the former players who have played for me. They’ve helped build a foundation … and they want guys to continue to build and continue to grow and take us to a higher level.”

Mark McCarter July 11, 20171:30 pm

We’re reminded of Dan Mullen’s influence on QBs: Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott, among others. Junior Nick Fitzgerald should be among SEC’s best. He had 4,160 yards of total offense (1,502 on the ground, 2,658 in the air) last season and three times had games with 300 yards-plus passing and 100-plus yards rushing. But with half the defense graduated, will Miss State put Fitzgerald in shootout mode each week?

Mark McCarter July 11, 20171:53 pm

In honor of SEC Media Days????

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Mark McCarter July 11, 20172:25 pm

Honest, it’s not my bad photography that makes Chris Davis’ fingers look so blurred. That’s just how fast he types. He and Taylor Tannebaum are hard at work in the TV room while I remain hunkered down in the meat locker that is the main ballroom, awaiting the arrival of Florida’s Jim McElwain. 

Mark McCarter July 11, 20172:35 pm

Former Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire has transferred to Florida, where he’ll compete with incumbent Luke Del Rio. Zaire “has a smile that will light up the room,” coach Jim McElwain says. He likely has other attributes, too.

“We have real options and that’s a good thing,” McElwain said.

Mark McCarter July 11, 20172:42 pm

Florida and LSU had some bitter moments last year in light of the “Hurricane Game,” and some Gators are considering LSU a rival on par with Georgia, Tennessee and Florida State.

Florida has scheduled LSU for homecoming, which was unknown to Jim McElwain until just yesterday.
“I get off the plane having been gone for a week,” he said. “Believe it or not, unlike Coach Saban at Alabama, I have no choice in it. It’s the university’s choice. They didn’t tell me until I got off the plane and they said, ‘Hey, guess who your homecoming game is.'”

He added, “I’m loving the fact you think it’s news.”

Mark McCarter July 11, 20172:45 pm

Florida’s Jim McElwain is a former Alabama assistant. The success at Bama, he said, is handling things that aren’t always under your control.

“I do understand this: they’re right now at the top and it’s up to the rest of us to go get ’em.”

Mark McCarter July 11, 20172:52 pm

I’m flattered to be in the running. Thanks, Pat Forde. 

Maxie Gardner July 11, 20173:33 pm

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Mark McCarter July 11, 20173:54 pm

What? You mean you missed yesterday’s column on LSU’s Ed Orgeron? Well, here it is…

Mark McCarter July 11, 20173:58 pm

I’ll let Chase, Taylor and Chris tidy things up on the moving-picture side of things, but the coaches and athletes have finished the parade through the main interview room. We’re halfway home! Seven down, seven to go.

Check us out on the live blog again tomorrow — Alabama’s Nick Saban is the leadoff hitter for Day 3 — and look for my column on the SEC East coaches on the website soon. Which East coach’s team will get to play Washington Generals against the Globetrotters from the SEC West in this year’s title game in Atlanta?